The Strategy of Going with the Winner

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

There is an irony about free markets that the collective participates in. On the one hand, we have massive choice in many categories. On the other hand, over time, we have a winner-take-all outcome. Over time, people consolidate and choose the best.

We don’t have all these phones. We have iPhones.

We have Starbucks, Netflix and Salesforce.com.

Early on, there can be many software options and platforms to choose from. Later on, there is an actual, or perceived, best in class.

If you are building services, you may want to opt for the efficient path and go with the winner. Winners enjoy the support of customers and their funding. They have larger ecosystems with partners, plugins, apps, marketing agreements and all the pieces for standardization.

Furthermore, it’s easier to move information, find talent and get things done around the winner’s platform.

On the one hand, “best” is not always necessarily functional or technical. It’s often a business case of inertia. You can push for merit on features of a runner-up technology or offering. However, there’s a lot of waste trying to metaphorically boil the ocean and convince others what product line should be the standard bearer.

There’s also a simplicity to choosing the winner. You don’t have to spend energy on choice. You can simply execute and give people what they want.

If you take a quick audit, there’s likely opportunity and efficiency you can gain by picking the winners so you can use those products, services and platforms to simply get your business done making money and interfacing with customers.

Value is Perishable

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J. Money’s Work History from BudgetsAreSexy.com

I keep up with a lot of blogs in my reader and I came across this article from a fun, candid article at Budgets Are Sexy. I like reading articles from bloggers that put the raw truth of their journey out there. It’s bold and courageous of them. This article was a reflection and a great reminder that value is perishable.

We are not working in an economy where we will be doing the same thing in five years. Here’s a guy that lists 36 jobs in his journey and how he rounded back to his core, but he was always exploring new options and opportunities.

It’s a strange thing when we run across friends 10 or 20 years later. They are usually doing something totally different.

And often, we have been doing something far from the path we were once on as well.

What you consider value today does tend to have a half-life. Automation, competition and efficiencies change the value equation all the time. You might have charged a premium before, but then the world gets smarter and everyone can do what you are doing. That’s when you have to change course or reinvent yourself.

I think there’s sectors where you can hide out for sure. It’s one strategy to combat innovation. I’m not sure it’s that safe or secure. It’s simply defense and fear.

If you simply operate with the security that today is a snapshot of what you may be doing or offering, you can stay relevant, fresh and engaged. You can keep observing and pushing into new areas where your value can be recognized and compensated for.

I don’t think there’s this job out there that will make you feel secure. Nor is there a product that will be a hit for the next 10 years guaranteed.

I do think you are a living, breathing person that can be continually valuable. You are only perishable if you bank on some kind of false staying power rather than increasing your abilities over time. Keep moving and embrace that journey of doing many other things yet to come.

The Goal of Your System

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If you are sitting comfortably, there’s not much incentive to improve your systems. However, disruptors such as technology, competition and atrophy (i.e., Groupon), may force your hand to get your systems more efficient.

I’ve been sharing out various books around the area of business growth and efficiency lately. A classic I would recommend if you are serious about getting your business systems working optimally is The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. You get an insightful and packed story that illuminates the complexities, sensitivities and systemic relationships of complex systems.

You also learn about what the goal of a system is: throughput. Your challenge is to drive throughput in the midst of dealing with natural forces including statistical fluctuations, dependencies, inventory, operational expense and bottlenecks.

It’s tricky business, and if you are not careful, you can damage your systems in the pursuit of efficiencies and make throughput worse, not better.

If you get myopic around local maximums, for example, you can cause your system’s throughput to suffer overall.

Systems with their dependencies and obedience to natural laws have to be respected, analyzed and refined carefully to avoid unintended consequences.

I have seen so many businesses with good intentions that violate the principles of The Goal and see negative impacts on their cash flow. It’s not pretty, and sometimes it’s hard to understand.

There are undoubtedly higher efficiencies that would make life easier, make customers happier and put more money in your pocket.

What if you could increase your throughput and your cash by 50%? Does it appeal to you to move the needle? All that lost opportunity and money could be a fantastic motivator to keep growing so you are not vulnerable when change comes to force your hand.

Get ahead of that inevitable decrease and drive the throughput. That is the goal of your system.

I Want to Grow Opportunities with Apps

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I saw this recent statistic to date for number of apps for my Apple devices at 2.2 million and 2.8 million for Google Play! It blows my mind how much technology is available for every average person out there with a thought and a click. We got here fast.

When you look at these numbers, do you think creating one more app will be much value? How would you get through all the noise to even be noticed? You might find a micro niche that has been undiscovered. Or you could try and unseat a current app leader in a category. Tough game either way to bet on, especially when the proposition of free or $0.99 apps are expected. We’re app snobs these days and want extreme power with no cost.

But you could take a look at the bigger picture. Much like electricity is a commodity that we don’t give much thought towards, apps have come to be a sort of utility. We use them for travel, productivity, banking, entertainment and many other uses.

How do you grow opportunities with all these apps, however? What if you want to produce rather than consume? The use case for this supercomputer in your pocket can surely go far beyond checking out or checking in.

If you want to grow opportunities with apps, here are some ideas and strategies that gets you thinking about the game of increase:

  1. Networking. If you extend your inbox to include participating in forums or Quora, you can play a game every day. Give a great idea or connection every day. See if you can be a matchmaker and make new friends by giving substantive value. Push your mind and creativity. See if that translates to deal making.
  2. Build teams. Start a project that has a money-making goal. Keep it small. Use an app to add people to the conversation and actions. Move the ball forward with leadership and project management. See if you can set the next steps forward using distributed talent around the globe. You’ll have picked up the skill of managing virtual teams. You might consider Basecamp, Slack or Upwork to drive this initiative and make an ROI the goal.
  3. Curate. If you keep tabs on trends, products, food, technology or other natural interests, find a way to make a daily post on a platform. See if you can turn that into a transaction. Work with those vendors you respect. Become a trusted, curated resource. Build relationships with your audience and your product vendors to find where the deal making lies.
  4. Encourage. Life is tough and most people are carrying around a lot of worries, concerns and problems. Use an app that would facilitate the process of encouragement. Find inspirations, apt quotes, solutions and answers that would help people. Make it easy for yourself to connect the encouragement with the person that needs it.

You are not going to have a million apps on your device. But you can think about what you are doing with your time and attention and think a bit bigger than mere consumption. What if you could turn that powerful middleware someone created and get resourceful to turn the tech into opportunity building? It starts with a purpose.

Reinvent Yourself Before You’re Forced To

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“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ~ Robert Greene

Things work … until they don’t.

We bought stories previously that made sense. Advertising works because people pay attention. A horse and buggy is the way to travel. Everyone should meet for lunch to do business. Conglomerates are responsible for the news.

There were entire industries and armies of workers ready to fulfill what scaled and worked. And there was reward for a time with cash flow and stability that all the participating players enjoyed.

However, we don’t have the luxury of a static world that simply allows us to drink forever from a wellspring of opportunity. Too often, we have to get slapped hard out of our delusion and heed Baltasar Gracian’s words,

“Fortune soon tires of carrying anyone long on her shoulders.”

We did not have a world where everyone carried a supercomputer in their pocket, 24/7 news continually streamed and anyone could put their opinion out in the endless information stream of social platforms. The story people tell themselves continually changes and consumers are able to make choices for themselves on their time, attention and buying based on convenience and innovation.

I can remember too many times where work was hard. Building systems, sales engines and collaboration processes were hard. It’s much easier. We don’t have to code anymore or lay out inflexible, expensive requirements to test our ideas. We don’t even have to be perfect from the start. We can try what we conceive and tear it down and rebuild technologies and platforms to see if they work in reality or not.

Innovation is sweet and relentless.

We don’t even have to sweat the underlying mechanics or even hope for infrastructure.

However, the flip side of innovation is that it threatens the current position you find yourself in. Things will be different. They have to be. The collective is forcing and demanding better, faster, cheaper and entertaining.

Whether you align and reinvent yourself today or are forced to change when the world ignores your value is not something you control.

IT will be different. So will education, medicine, law, marketing, and every other industry out there that has enjoyed some form of stasis.

Sure, there’s a latency for Luddites that can ride the down wave. However, they can’t control the forces at play and the demand side that is creating this ridiculous pace of innovation we are all riding and insisting on.

The strategy for the value provider that wants to get paid has to move towards continual relevance. You have to stay in tune with what works, but you don’t need to get so far ahead that consumer demand lags.

Reinvent yourself by:

  1. Having a parallel path of selling/doing that ramps up while your current cash flow ramps down.
  2. Experimenting with and integrating new technology that makes things more convenient for your customers.
  3. Creating new use cases for your competencies.
  4. Selling something new and test for traction.

The last thing you want to experience as a businessperson is irrelevance. Fear and comfort can blindside you. The great news is that you can always get ahead of the inevitable changes to your position by keeping your own innovation habits in play.

What’s next for you and how can you keep reinvention continuously going?

Skip the Line and Take Smartcuts

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Shane Snow’s Smartcuts is an excellent read to get you off your mundane thinking tracks and moving laterally towards results. The insights from case studies of those hackers that have skipped the line and percolated up inspire and inform those that want to figure out how to get results fast with creativity and lateral thinking.

In his own pursuits to circumvent the success ladder, he analyzed the contributing pieces to what might otherwise be opaque to a casual observer of successful people. He shares principals and case studies of nine different attributes of smartcut thinking and approaches.

I liked the challenge to be prepared for waves where he shares analogies of big time surfers and how they excel based on timing, instinct and experience. Likewise, there are waves coming and going in our hyper growth world and it requires insightful and well-timed action based on steady preparation. You have to be in the game and know what you are looking for.

This is an important book for those that understand you don’t have to pay your dues. You can find the workaround, think like a hacker and get to your goals in a completely different style of thinking. It saves time, grief and expense when you put your mind towards creative thinking.

How can you take a smartcut in what you are doing?

Above All Be Human

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We live in unprecedented times with automation, technology and ridiculous speed. It can delude us into thinking we have immense power and reach when in actuality, we do business and work in a world of human beings.

Our interactions, slights, likes, moods, and movements matter in whether we want to have anything to do with others.

There’s always the temptation to check out or spam people or overuse technology. But you miss the opportunity to connect on a meaningful level if your approaches miss being human.

How about listening, caring and engaging on a meaningful level? You’re not going to become valuable by simply sharing posts or pinging from afar. What are your insights? Why do you care? How does this help?

That’s the human part. You use the knowledge to create meaning and connection. It has to matter personally to the person you are seeking to share with. And it may only take a little more thought and care. But it’s that last leg that makes the impact.

We are all trying to solve problems. Life is one giant problem. And taking moments to think a bit more about someone’s situation and offering pertinent, relevant ideas and solutions with compassion is gold.

Are you being human in your interactions or simply moving fast?

Leveling Up

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Are you keeping your ideas flowing in the real world?

If the world was a static place, you could make your bed, set things in order and watch your money-making job or business simply cash flow without disruption.

However, we don’t live in Narnia. It’s not a place of bliss and perfection. Now that everyone is connected and able to make change, it forces your hand. Resting on your laurels becomes more risky than the better strategy of leveling up and continually innovating.

If you look at large corporations, their divisions are segmented based on natural business functions – operations, marketing, finance, accounting, sales, and research and development.

If you are a solopreneur or small business owner, you have the same functions by necessity. Research and development is where you level up. There has to be time, attention and money dedicated to the goal of continuous growth. It means being open to what is happening in your industry and even beyond.

You have to be open to new ideas and integrate them into your own model.

The threats to your current position have to be evaluated. Paradoxically, the way to reduce risk is to keep moving forward and leveling up.

If you are not testing new ideas and putting them in play with real customers, then how can you be surprised when someone else replaces your position and value in the market?

Here’s an idea. For a couple hours every week, block the time out in your calendar. Get away to a place where you can’t do your reactive work. Take a piece of paper and simply imagine. Open your mind up to new ideas you can test. The ideas can come from news, people, media, gossip, hobbies or whatever else crosses your path.

Merge the extraordinary. See if you can come up with a way to test something new over 30-60 days to see if customers will like and pay for your idea.

Just think of this as embedding research and development into your otherwise busy work weeks. In the process, you mitigate the risk which innovation relentlessly presents to threaten your position. Level up or become irrelevant.

What ideas can you level up on?

Innovate and Leave the Industrial Age Behind

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We are in a major election cycle and the promise of jobs keeps coming up as if the candidates can magically create jobs and fill out the shrinking middle class by decree.

Ever take a look at the recent 10 Worst Companies to Work For article? Why do people hang on and work for these outdated industrial age businesses? They are either confused and stuck back in the dark ages when they could decree what the masses should buy because they had massive production or they are retailers that continually lose their way in this confusing world of infinite options.

Yet, people still work at these places holding onto some hope that will only decline over time.

Want to know what a middle class life was before? It is a white-collar person that relied on information inefficiency. Some manager of HR or marketing or finance. If there’s complexity and inefficient information flow, then they are needed. In fact, the more complicated and slow, the more they could snow the bosses and hold onto their precious positions. Multiply that by millions and you have neighborhoods sprawled across urban centers with strip malls propping up someone whose job relies on ambiguity, politics and layers.

The industrial age, when we made things cheap, efficiently and en masse, allowed us to get fat and have everyone work for static, aligned companies.

Now, information and connection flows freely. You can build your own company without any fat to it. You can access powerful databases for a few dollars a month or for free. The only thing limiting someone from launching is:

  1. Guts
  2. Clarity

That’s the scarcity. Rather than waiting for someone to want you, you can kick the crappy jobs to the curb and get in the game of entrepreneurship for no money or very little. You have to innovate and move from an industrial age, outdated mode, where someone is telling you what to do to a place where the real game is being played. Build something people want. Connect directly with customers and people that can help you help customers. Make it happen repeatedly with excellence.

Do you think jobs are coming back? Why?

Talent Is Required

Marketing Automation requires talent. There is a combination of different disciplines involved in successfully connecting with and nurturing a potential or existing customer. This talent can be part of an existing marketing team or hired via a marketing automation agency. Too many organizations focus on the tools and their feature sets and overlook the most important aspect of a successful marketing program – talent.

Here are the areas of talent which need to exist:

  • Strategic Thinking: Marketing automation campaigns involve thinking creatively about how the buying process works. Understanding the buyer and their mindsets is critical for success. Gaining attention and relevance must be mapped strategically by the successful marketer.
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  • Information Technology: The systems involved in delivering messaging and triggering actions requires a knowledge of how workflows are executed. A systems thinker who can understand the cross-impacts of changes and the repercussions of links, landing pages and database management helps to ensure not only a speed of execution but clean management of leads. The setup of various campaigns requires talent in the area of system navigation and management. It is the skill of both an architect and an engineer.
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  • Graphic Design: If the artwork, layout and presentation are not appealing and remarkable, then the communications of a marketing automation campaign will suffer obscurity and ineffectiveness. Skill in graphic design is a must when there is so much noise hitting people’s in-boxes and there are too many websites.
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  • Thought Leadership: Writing is a key differentiator. Poor copy will result in wasted effort and is also a reflection of your brand. Writing to sell turns off the buyer. Writing to persuade and bring value positions your company and offering. The talent of articulation and bringing a relevant message are critical to connect with a buyer. This is especially challenging in an age where there is a plethora of good and bad content.
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  • Leadership: Marketing automation is not a fulfillment function. If it turns into menial output, then the marketing will die a rapid death. Buyers today are too sensitive to their inbox and exert triage on their information world. They are looking for leadership. The most important ingredient is to lead the customer and your team with conviction around your brand and offering. A person who is only seeking to accommodate has very little chance of bringing an effective connection with an audience that is starved for leadership, conviction and clarity.

In all, the realm of marketing automation is cross-disciplinary. There is a convergence of various talents. It is rare to find this in one person, much less two or three. Typically, a team approach which creates the results of effective marketing automation is what is required.

Larger organizations may have some of the talent pieces within their own time that comes from traditional means for engaging the marketplace. Often times, the gaps need to be filled with outside consultants that have the expertise to augment the existing team for true success.

If you are making decisions for implementing successful marketing strategies, pay much more attention to what is required in talent than in the tools. The former makes more of a difference. The tools are approaching parity and can enable what talented teams can drive via their ingenuity and passion.